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Making the choice to breastfeed is a profound one and is also a very special way for mother and child to bond in the early months.

It’s important to remember how you take care of yourself directly affects your child when you breastfeed. In order to make sure your child is getting the very best of nutrition from you, there are some guidelines to keep in mind.

While you don’t have to omit as many foods as you did when you were pregnant (that’s a whole other article), sticking to balanced, nutrient-dense diet is the first step for successful breastfeeding. You want to make sure you’re consuming a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables, grains/complex carbohydrates, good fats (i.e. omega-3s) and plenty of protein. These foods will provide the vitamins and minerals you and your baby need, like vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, DHA and iron, while also keeping your energy up. Avoid the processed foods or fast food as much as possible and make smart choices when you do go out for a meal or get takeout. When it comes to foods you should avoid, nuts and soy are good to omit at first because of potential allergies. Skip the artificial ingredients, like sugar alternatives, too. Lastly, you can have raw fish, but stick to options that are low in mercury to be on the safe side.

Most women will be eager to get back to their beverages of choice after pregnancy, such as coffee, beer and wine. While juice, water and milk are more preferable of course, these other options aren’t off limits, you just have to be smart about timing and quantity. Try to keep your coffee to one cup a day and your alcohol consumption down to no more than a few drinks a week. Enjoying that coffee or alcoholic beverage right after you breastfeed can help you avoid passing on as much to your little one. You don’t want your baby to get the jitters! You can also buy test strips to check for alcohol content in your breast milk before feeding. If you’re able to pump before an evening out, that can make things much easier and less stressful.

Be sure to keep taking your prenatal vitamin while you’re breastfeeding. This ensures both you and the baby get the proper amount of nutrients you need, especially if your diet fluctuates. That being said, you shouldn’t take any other supplements unless advised to do so by your physician, who can monitor your dosage and its effects. This is because, just like with food and beverages, whatever supplements you take, your baby ends up taking as well. This is the same for medication, including both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. While more will be safe for you to take once the baby is born, your doctor can best advise you on which products to choose and the strength of the dosage. The one exception to this is a good Vitamin D supplement, which BOTH you and your baby should be taking, in accordance with the advice from the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics)

Here are some additional tips for success if you decide to breastfeed:

  • Be sure to spread your meals out throughout the day to keep your energy up. Go for three meals and two snacks.
  • Rest whenever allowed, like when your baby goes down for a nap.
  • Increase your caloric intake to around 2,500 calories a day if necessary to make sure you stay nourished as well as your baby.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day and especially when you wake up in the morning.
  • Avoid exposure to environmental pollutants whenever possible.
  • Use a balm or cream to help heal dry or cracked nipples.
  • Carefully clean your breasts in the shower avoiding the use of harsh or drying soaps.
  • Start getting some regular exercise, as long as you feel up to it and your doctor believes you’re ready for it. Even just walking in the fresh air will suffice, you’ll be amazed at how much better you sleep and how much more energy you have throughout the day.

Breastfeeding can be an incredible experience for a new mother and their child. With the proper nutrition, you and your baby will get the most out of this special time together.

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